Brand Evolution – The Magic Hour: Chapter 3

Hello, My Name is ___

After the brand equity study closes, and the values and promise work is done, you should end up with a solid platform of aspiration words that evoke a sense of humanity and connection. This is particularly important for technology companies who are in the brand naming process.

Values and Promise

Work it, baby. Engage employees first. Do it in a way that allows them to own and exercise the values and promise. Avoid the pitfalls of threats or cheerleading. This must be as organic and natural as possible. Consider gamification exercises where your employees can find their own way to get to the meaning of the promise, to be inspired by real human values and connect to them. It should be fun and personal.

If your employees cannot embrace the promise or values, this is an indication either the values and promise are not genuine, you have a morale problem (another key indicator of a broken brand promise), or the disposition of the employee in question cannot align with the company aspirations. Someone outside the company should lead this critical piece. It frees everyone from the threat of political fallout, or a sense they must perform on cue, and allows them to be themselves. It creates a rich environment of productivity and high engagement. Plus, it should be fun – change can be a strong aphrodisiac!

Without real and positive internal engagement with and adoption of the values and the promise, from every employee including the founder, this endeavor will fail.

Competition

Learn from the Klingons. Turn to your competitors and dispassionately analyze and categorize product names and positioning statements. Use tools to monitor what target customers and industry leaders are talking about in association with which product. Where is the chatter? Who is driving it? This research is important and I strongly urge the use of an outside firm and caution against the seduction of research giants. You will make an investment in this area, but it shouldn’t be a crippling expense. You’ll probably find smaller, local research firms that can provide this at reasonable a reasonable cost.

Positioning

No one really wants to see how the sausage is made… But after you have active participants in the values from all your customers, and you’ve got a solid body of competitive intelligence, then and really only then, can you think about brand or product positioning. This is where the hard work lies because you will use the “living” values and promise as a foundation. Now you need to tie it all together. Time to visit your customers again. Here’s a great outside article supporting customer inclusion in the process.

The work you done so far is now the basis from where you will draw ideas from for solid brand, service and product names – and why having a solid brand strategy in place is so important. Whoever is leading this effort for you needs open access to all areas of the business to help build a solid go to market plan. Why am I mentioning brand strategy and go to market plans now? I assume you have target audiences in mind, and sales people have quotas to make, and that a product exists that meets a very real need. If this isn’t in place yet, you have a higher priority than to start the naming or positioning process. If this is the case, revisit your business plan. The brand strategy must tie deeply to the business model and plan. Let’s assume these are in place, and that you’ve completed the steps above. You are now ready to consider positioning that product or service.

You’re not done with positioning just yet, but before you can complete the positioning process, pause here and move on to the nomenclature and lexicon step.

Nomenclature and lexicon

Call it like it is. Brand naming and language is a key aspect of the overall brand development process, and I’m guessing you’ve been itching to get to this point. Your ideas are positively flying from your fingertips and you have a lovely whiteboard bursting with juicy concepts, rife with possibilities. Now go back to your customers. Yes, I’m serious.

Product names generally fall into one of four categories: good, safe, meaningless and bad. Get a sense of how prospective customers would describe your product. For these questions, absolutely do not bias the interview. Provide a scenario that explains what the product does. In describing it, don’t use any of the words you’re already considering for the product name. When you’ve finished laying out the scenario, ask the interviewee to tell you what words they would use to describe that capability. Expose a list product names and ask the interviewee if any names stand out to them, and why. Customers should not name the product, but they will give you valuable insights into what is important to them. Finally, ask how they would describe this product to their boss, a spouse or a client.

Acronyms suck, so avoid them. They have an alienating affect on most customers and act as brand barriers. Here’s an outside article that underscores my position.

Ask yourself if the names up for consideration represent the crown jewels of the company values. Is there a hint of the brand promise in there somewhere? Keep working through the process and you should end up with solid options.

After you have decided on a name or names, you need to show your homework from all the work above – and write an in-depth positioning strategy for each of the names. Keep in mind what your differentiator is (this should be confirmed in the brand equity study). This discipline will help you and others know the boundaries of the name, its uses and most importantly its value. You have just revisited the positioning (above) and hopefully by this iterative process, made it stronger.

Tradename

Who told you to put the balm on?

Ask your legal counsel about what legal strategy works best for your naming conventions. Is it better to create a family of capabilities, each with their own name, which connects directly to the company name? Or is it better to make a clean break? It is better to register the company name or just leave it as a tradename?

Speaking of legal, now that you have a list of possible candidates, it’s time to run a trademark search – you have to determine if the names are even available. This will prevent lost time, effort and brand erosion (not to mention lawsuits) that might occur if you start to fall in love with a certain name only to find it can’t be used after you’ve embedded it in the product, printed materials or posted it on your website. Embarrassing. Expensive. Unnecessary.

Logo and brand iconography

The candy-like button is often what I’m asked to provide first before any of this work has been done – the creative treatments and iconography options.

How will it look in the product? On the web? Packaging and collateral? Shirts? The company van? The side of a building? What are the graphic elements and template options that have legs and won’t hem you in too much? Do the visual treatments, logo, or iconography tell the right story? Do they reflect your company values?

Consider also color elements. They have profound graphic output implications and limitations. Customers also tie trust and credibility beliefs to color, so choose wisely.

There is much more to creating a brand, but these are the key elements I recommend be in place as part of the process.

There is brand maintenance work, like performing the brand survey updates, developing a healthy strategy to improve your employees’ personal brands [next blog] (not to mention your own), and the critical follow up to ensure there isn’t a weakening – and if so, shore it up appropriately and fast. Reputation management is trending as a critical part of the overall brand strategy, and this is sadly due to someone making decisions that diverge from the company values.

 

I hope this gives you some good ideas of how to approach your own brand work. Once you’ve embraced the abyss and run through this exercise in full, it will be easier to have an entire structure in place to design the best customer experience possible. Good luck! © Jeanie Walker, River Dog Marketing, 2013

About The Author

Jeanie Walker
Longtime brand and marketing professional with a special fondness for delivering the best customer experience design and a zest for helping local companies build strong communities.